It’s nearly time! The EFL returns on Friday night and, ahead of the big kick-off, we’ve picked out 10 things that you should look out for.Season 2016/17 promises to be another thrilling campaign, so sit back and enjoy the ride!
Is Will Grigg still on fire?
It’s the burning question.
Wigan Athletic’s front man hit 28 goals in all competitions last term and attracted world fame – not necessarily for his goalscoring ability, though. From the terraces to the UK charts, the ‘Will Grigg’s on fire’ song became a worldwide hit.
#SeasonStats: Top 20 @SkyBet Football League goalscorers in Season 2015/16...https://t.co/hiaUO2nukopic.twitter.com/l4NUAo3Zdo— EFL (@EFL) June 8, 2016
Is the flame still burning ready for 2016/17? We’ll soon find out.
Rafa’s Newcastle revitalisation
This time 12 months ago Rafael Benitez was readying Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale et al ahead of a season in which Real Madrid would eventually go on to win the Champions League. Now, he’s in the north east of England and preparing Newcastle United for a Sky Bet Championship campaign in which promotion and an immediate return to the top flight is most definitely the aim.
The shrewd acquisitions of Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Grant Hanley and Mo Diame – players who have been there and done it in the Championship – could prove vital, as Benitez aims to emulate his second-tier achievements at Tenerife and Extremadura in the earlier stages of his managerial career.
For the last two seasons it’s been #BAFCandPromoted, but what can we expect from Burton Albion – a club playing in the Conference against Lewes and Weymouth as recently as 2009 – as they embark on their historic maiden voyage in the Sky Bet Championship?
According to BBC Sport, since 2006/07, 81 per cent of promoted Sky Bet League One sides have stayed up in the Championship, so the odds are in the Brewers’ favour. But they will be wary of the likes of Yeovil Town, who suffered relegation in their first ever season in the second tier in 2013/14.
Guess who’s back; back again…
It’s been a busy close-season on the managerial front, with changes aplenty in dugouts up and down the country. In the Sky Bet Championship, two names who have experienced success in the past have returned, in Nigel Pearson and Roberto Di Matteo.
Pearson, who led Leicester City to the 2013/14 Championship title with 102 points, setting them on their way to eventual Premier League glory, is now on the touchline at Derby County. The Rams started last term under Paul Clement, before he departed and made the Play-Offs, losing in the semi-finals, under Darren Wassall.
Di Matteo, meanwhile, has been chosen as the man to lead Aston Villa after their relegation to the EFL. He has Championship previous having guided West Bromwich Albion to promotion as runners-up in 2009/10, and has since lifted the FA Cup and Champions League with Chelsea.
Debuts: 18 managers set to make their dugout debuts at new clubs on the opening weekend.— EFL (@EFL) July 26, 2016
AFC Wimbledon: Chapter 15
Season 2016/17 will be a new chapter in the history books of AFC Wimbledon, as they compete in Sky Bet League One for the first time in their 14-year history.
They will come up against Bolton Wanderers this term and, when the Trotters qualified for the UEFA Cup in 2006/07, the Dons were in the early stages of their fairy tale ascent, competing in the Isthmian League Premier Division (Step 7).
Talking of 2006/07; that was a season in which Bolton versus Sheffield United was a top-flight fixture. Fast-forward 10 years and it’s one of 12 match-ups on the opening weekend of the Sky Bet League One campaign.
They are two of seven teams in League One and League Two with top-flight experience.
Can Doyle cope with the price tag?
One of the strangest transfers of the close-season has to be that of goalkeeper Colin Doyle, who made the move from Blackpool to Bradford City for the lump sum of £1.
Doyle, who was Blackpool’s club captain, had a release clause in his contract and the Bantams wasted no time in triggering that following the Tangerines’ relegation to Sky Bet League Two.
Rockin’ Robins and the mighty Mariners
Cheltenham Town and Grimsby Town returned to the EFL after winning promotion from non-league last term, and they should be optimistic ahead of 2016/17.
Read more: Grimsby Town - Paul Hurst wants to push on after EFL return
Look no further than Bristol Rovers as a glowing example of what can be achieved after reclaiming a place in the 72. After returning ahead of last season, the Gas secured back-to-back promotions with dramatic glory on the final day. Over to you, Cheltenham and Grimsby.
Read more: Cheltenham Town - Robins to rock on return to Sky Bet League Two?
Blackpool: Bouncing back with Bowyer?
While Cheltenham and Grimsby have come up, Blackpool have dropped from the Premier League to Sky Bet League Two in five years.
Gary Bowyer is the ninth manager to take over at Bloomfield Road in that timeframe, and his men start at home to Exeter City on Saturday, aiming to stop the rot.
It’s a new-look competition returning for Season 2016/17 after the rebranding of The Football League to the EFL.
As well as a new identity for the EFL, there’s also a new-look for the EFL Cup and EFL Trophy!
Read more: Football League to be re-named the English Football League
Social media - #EFLKickOff
Follow the EFL on social media in the build-up to the start of Season 2016/17, using #EFLKickOff:
The waiting is almost over!#EFLKickOffpic.twitter.com/OlvM6WvJ7C— EFL (@EFL) August 4, 2016